Friday, 28 November 2014

A Message for Israel's Politicians: Start Tackling the Country's Real Problems!

Israel has the highest poverty rate of all OECD countries.  One in three Israeli children are poor.  Israel is now on the verge of recession.  And our so-called indivisible capital Jerusalem seems more divided than ever.  So are Israel's politicians addressing these problems?  Nope.  Instead, they're arguing over how Jewish the country should be.  I guess playing the game of who can be more nationalistic is more important for our elected officials than making sure that our children don't go to bed hungry.  What a shame, to say the least.

Unfortunately, I see the situation getting worse before it gets better.  Why?  Because not only are our politicians not addressing Israel's real problems, they're not even thinking about governing and instead looking towards early elections.  And if there is a call for early elections, alleviating Israel's problems and improving the lives of its citizens will be postponed for months of campaigning and then more months of trying to form a government.  Meanwhile, many of Israel's children will still go to bed hungry, Jerusalem will continue to be gripped by fear, and progress towards bringing peace and security to the people of Israel will continue to be nonexistent.

So my message to all of Israel's politicians is to stop talking about trivial matters, like how Jewish our country to be and start talking about how to deal with the real problems.  Start doing something about the high cost of living in the country.  Start improving our education system to ensure that Israel's tradition of scholarship and innovation continues.  Start looking for ways to make sure that all Israelis have a roof over their heads, enough food to eat, and the ability to live meaningful lives.  Because right now, the people of Israel don't need more Jewishness or more elections.  They need jobs, education, peace, security and most importantly, hope for a better future.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Law Defining Israel as Nation-State of the Jewish People is Pointless But Not Wrong

I have gone on record as saying that the proposed law supported by Prime Minister Netanyahu and other right wing members of the Israeli government is pointless because everyone in the world with even half a brain knows that Israel is the national home of the Jewish people.  As I have said in the past, everything in Israel from our flag to our Declaration of Independence says that Israel is the Jewish homeland.  But just because this new law may be pointless, doesn't necessarily mean that it's wrong.

Israel is surrounded by countries that clearly define themselves on an ethnic and/or religious basis.  Just look at our next door neighbour to the south, which is officially known as the Arab Republic of Egypt.  Or how about one of our neighbours to the north - the country officially called the Syrian Arab Republic.  Looking further east, we have the Islamic Republic of Iran.  In fact, nearly all of Israel's neighbours clearly define themselves as Arab and/or Islamic states.  So if it's okay to have an Arab Republic of Egypt, a Syrian Arab Republic and an Islamic Republic of Iran, why isn't it okay to have a Jewish State of Israel?  It doesn't take a genius to see the double standard here.

Moreover, it isn't just dictatorships like Iran and Syria that define themselves based on ethnic or religious criteria.  Many democracies, including several countries in Europe, do as well.  In the United Kingdom, for example, the Anglican church is a national institution.  Queen Elizabeth II, the UK's head of state, is also the head of the Anglican church.  In other words, Anglicanism serves as the UK's official state religion.  The same is true of the Lutheran church in several Scandinavian countries.  So if mature European democracies can declare themselves to be Christian states without so much as a whimper of condemnation from abroad, why should Israel not be allowed to declare itself a Jewish state without being condemned by the international community? 

Again, I still believe that this proposed law to define Israel as the national home of the Jewish people is pointless and a waste of time.  But I still contend that Israel has every right to define itself any way it wants, so long as it respects the rights of minorities, which of course it does much better than most of the countries that frequently condemn its very existence.   

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Israel is a Country for Yehudim, Not Yids

Being in exile for two thousand years changed a lot of things about the Jewish people.  It changed the way we speak, the way we dress, and even the way we look.  Fortunately, after restoring Jewish independence for the first time in two millennia, we've also managed to restore the fundamentals of our true Semitic heritage.  Most importantly, we brought back Hebrew as our national language.  Even Theodor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement, didn't think we could do that.  He thought that once we restored our independence, we would still be using languages like Yiddish, German, Russian and so forth.  Thank goodness he was wrong and that Israel did not turn out to be just another outpost of the Jewish Diaspora.  Unfortunately, however, there are some Israelis who still don't accept the reality that the era of Jews as homeless wanderers is over.  They prefer to perpetuate the exile.

The Haredim, whom I spoke of in my recent blog, Haredi Extremists: Israel's Enemy Within, are masters at perpetuating the Jewish exile, even when they live in Israel.  They still wear the same medieval garb that their ancestors wore in the shtetls of Europe.  In fact, if you've seen the neighbourhoods in which they live, as I have, you would think that they were still living in the shtetl, or in one of Europe's old Jewish ghettos.  Worst of all, they refuse to speak Hebrew amongst themselves and use Yiddish instead.  Yiddish is the ultimate symbol of the Jewish exile and should have no place in Israel, other than as a source of slang.  So if these Haredim want to continue dressing like they did in Poland and speaking Yiddish as they did in Europe's shtetls and ghettos, I would suggest that they go back and live in the Diaspora.  Israel is a country for Yehudim, not Yids.

Moreover, any Jews who want to make Israel their permanent home should at least have the decency to take Hebrew names.  No Jew who lives in Israel should be walking around its streets with a name like Finkelstein.  And even more importantly, if you're going to live in the land, you have to learn the language.  The fact that I speak better Hebrew than some people who have been living in Israel for years is absolutely disgusting.  Unless you have some sort of learning disability, you have no excuse for not learning the language.  So either learn it, or get out!

Now I'm sure that by now, you probably want to tell me that I'm a hypocrite because I don't have a Hebrew name and I'm writing this in English rather than Hebrew.  If I was living in Israel, you would be absolutely right.  But of course, I'm not living in Israel.  Not yet anyway.  So I make this pledge to everyone reading this that if I ever do make Israel my permanent residence, I will practice what I preach.  I will take a Hebrew name and become fluent in the Hebrew language to the point where I can write my blogs in it.  I sincerely hope that every Jew who wants to live in Israel or who already lives there makes the same pledge.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Israel Fights Terrorism. Europe Rewards It

Cars used as deadly weapons, stabbing rampages, stones thrown at civilians by bloodthirsty hooligans - all of these have become hallmarks of what looks like a third Palestinian Intifada.  So how do you think the international community has responded to these recent acts of terrorism?  By blaming Israel, of course!  Actually, some countries in Europe are doing more than just blaming Israel.  They're rewarding the terrorists by according more recognition to a Palestinian "state" that promotes and incites terrorism on a regular basis.  Sweden has recently given official recognition to the state of Palestine, and the parliament of the United Kingdom passed a resolution calling for the recognition of such a state if it ever comes to fruition.  Similar resolutions are expected in the parliaments of France and Spain in the coming weeks.

So basically, as Israelis are dodging the cars, stones and fireworks being used by Palestinian terrorists, Europe is rewarding these same terrorists with more recognition of their proposed state.  In the meantime, the Europeans are also condemning Israel for wanting to build homes in its own capital and in part of its Biblical homelands in Judea and Samaria.  Obviously, this isn't the first time Europeans have tried to tell Jews where they can and can't live.  Ghettoizing Jews has been a European tradition for centuries, from medieval times, right up until World War II, when the Nazis established ghettos to concentrate the continent's Jewish population before systematically murdering them.  And now they are trying to ghettoize us in our own country!  I guess some things never change.  Clearly, Israel needs to respond to the ludicrous actions of the Europeans.  But how?

My suggestion: let Israel recognize the right of various European peoples to their own independent states.  So the British parliament passed a resolution calling for the recognition of a future Palestinian state.  Let Israel's Knesset pass its own resolution calling for recognition of an independent Scotland, an independent Wales, and the reunification of Northern Ireland with the Irish Republic.  If France and Spain decide to reward Palestinian terrorism by calling for recognition of the so-called state of Palestine, let Israel recognize and support the independence of Corsica and Brittany in France, and Catalonia and the Basque Country in Spain.  As a lot of people say, what goes around comes around.     

Monday, 10 November 2014

My Remembrance Day Rant

So tomorrow is Remembrance Day here in Canada.  At the 11th month, on the 11th day, at the 11th hour, we all pause and remember those who fought for our country and our freedom - or at least we're supposed to.  For too many of us, the 11th hour will just pass us by tomorrow like it does on any workday simply because no one is going to tell us that it's time to stop and remember.  This is the reason I like the way we observe our own "Remembrance Day" in Israel, which we call Yom Hazikaron - literally, the day of remembering.

When Yom Hazikaron comes around, our air raid sirens sound, prompting Israelis everywhere in the country to observe a moment of silence for our men and women in uniform, past and present.  In a way, it's too bad that we don't do this in Canada, because if we did, almost everyone would feel compelled to observe that important moment of silence as they do in Israel.  Now of course, I'm very happy that here in Canada, we don't need air raid sirens.  But it would be nice to see everyone on the busy streets of downtown Toronto come to a complete standstill to remember Canada's soldiers.  Half of the time, traffic in Toronto's downtown core doesn't move anyway, so they might as well stay still for a good reason, right?


Saturday, 8 November 2014

Haredi Extremists: Israel's Enemy Within

For years, my father has had a saying: "The worst enemy of the Jews is the Jews."  He says this in reference to the efforts of some Jews to undermine the State of Israel - in other words, anti-Zionist Jews.  Now of course, anti-Zionist Jews can be found all over the world.  For those of us who live outside of Israel, the ones we usually hear about are the kind associated with left-wing movements that decry the existence of the State of Israel as an embodiment of Jewish fascism that wrongly persecutes non-Jews, specifically those who identify as Palestinians, and functions as a state similar to apartheid South Africa.  But there is another group of anti-Zionist Jews that gets a lot more press time in Israel than it does anywhere else: Haredi extremists.  The Haredim, or ultra-Orthodox Jews, as they are often called in English, are the community that many other Israelis love to hate.  Why? Because most of them don't work and therefore don't contribute to the Israeli economy.  In fact, they're a drain on the Israeli economy because they get handouts from the government that enable them to do nothing but study the Torah all day.  Moreover, since the Haredim have a penchant for bearing many children, it's getting more and more expensive to support them as their numbers grow larger and larger.  And quite frankly, other Israelis who do work and contribute to society are getting sick and tired of their hard-earned tax dollars going to support these welfare bums.  Yet, the Haredim continue to insist that Israeli taxpayers subsidize their medieval way of life and even seek to impose that way of life on the rest of Israeli society.

Every Israeli knows about the weekly Shabbat routine in which crowds of Haredim gather to swear, spit on, and throw stones at other Israelis who dare to drive cars near or in Haredi-dominated neighbourhoods.  "Shabbos!  Shabbos!" they keep chanting.  Actually, the fact that they say "Shabbos" instead of the Hebrew word Shabbat is just one minor example of their subversive attitude towards the state, because many of them prefer to speak Yiddish rather than modern Hebrew, which they consider to be an abomination, just like the State of Israel.  These are the same kind of people who burn Israeli flags on Independence Day.  They're the same people who verbally and even physically assault women for dressing "immodestly".  I can still remember the story of that poor little girl in Bet Shemesh who was spit on and pelted with insults as she walked home from school.  By the way, this girl belonged to a modern Orthodox Jewish family.  But of course, even those Jews who most people would call religious are not religious enough for some fanatical Haredim who might as well be a Jewish version of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda or ISIL.  These extremists have no respect for individual rights, women's rights, or rights of any kind.  And if they had their way, not only would there be no freedom, democracy or human rights in Israel; there wouldn't be an Israel.  Period.